General problems of lexicology

Lexicology as a branch of linguistics. Factors determining the importance of modern English lexicography. Common problems of lexicology: connotation, stylistic synonymy, functional differentiation of vocabulary. Morphological structure of English words.

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c. the connotations,

d. the emotional component.

The last two points are only optional, while the first two ones are compulsory. The common denotational component forms the basis for the opposition in a synonymic group. Hence synonyms may be defined as two or more words of the same language belonging to the same part of speech and possessing similar or typically nearly similar denotational meanings.

An example of a group of synonyms may be: hope, expectation, anticipation. All the three words are combined by the common meaning "having something in mind which is likely to happen". But expectation may be either of good or evil, anticipation is a hope of something predominantly good, while hope is not only a belief of something good, but a desire of that to come. The fourth element in this group, still stronger in its meaning, may be looking forward to. A synonymic dominant here is hope, which is the most generic term of the group, containing the most specific features of the rest members.

Synonymy should not be confused with hyponymy or inclusion, and the synonymic dominant is not a hypernym. Thus animal is a generic form or a hypernym, while wolf, trout, spider, etc. are hyponyms to it and no synonymy can be traced here.

Synonyms very often differ in their stylistic and/or emotional coloring. Sometimes a synonymic group may include not only separate words, but word combinations, that is set expressions. Numerous in ME phraseology are synonymic pairs like wear and tear, pick and choose, stress and strain, act and deed, really and truly, etc. The problem of synonymy is connected with the question of interchangeability of synonyms. In fact, it is rather seldom that one synonym may be substituted by another one without the slightest harm to either the grammatical norm or the style of the utterance.

So it would be reasonable to speak here about the phenomenon of word valency. E.g. such words as to ask, to question, to interrogate, but their most frequent combinations with other words are: the teacher questions the students, the judge interrogates the witness, while to ask the dominant for the whole group, so it may substitute both words in both combination.

Adjectives high and tall are also synonyms, but in combinations like a tall man their substitution is impossible.

Words also, too and as well all mean the same, but they cannot be interchanged since their positions in a sentence are different. We may also say that too and either are synonyms, but they become such within appropriate contexts only, e.g. I can swim too and I can't swim either.

According to the character of interchangeability there are several groups of synonyms:

1) Contextual synonyms - become synonyms only when they find themselves in some specific context (e.g. to stand and to bear are synonyms only when used with negation). Contextual synonyms can't be fixed as such by dictionaries, but become such in many pieces of fiction.

2) Relative synonyms - to love and to adore, talent and gift, etc. The treatment of such words as synonyms is still under discussion, mainly because they strictly speaking name different notions, but not different degrees of the same notion. Such synonyms above all cannot substitute each other.

3) Total/complete/perfect synonyms - these are words which show absolute interchangeability without the slightest alteration in denotational or emotive meanings. Their existence in the language is always very short. Examples of total synonyms are few and can be mainly found in special literature among terms, because terminology is in many ways an artificial kind of language. E.g. noun and substantive, flection and inflection, though and although. We should realize that terms are supposed to be devoid of any connotation and emotionality, besides every author in science makes up his or her mind and uses this or that word in his/her papers to avoid confusion in terminology. That's why interchangeability among terms is more a theoretical problem that can hardly be actualized in a non-scientific text.

Sources of synonymy

The problem of such sources can be hardly be solved only diachronically or synchronically only as both approaches have to be combined.

1. The first and most important source as noted by the majority of linguists is the borrowing process from other languages. Otto Jespersen noted that modern English is particularly rich in synonyms because Britons, Romans, Saxons, Danes and Normans influenced each others' speech in the course of history. If compared simple native words within one synonymic group are stylistically neutral. French borrowings are literary or bookish. The words of the Greek and Roman origin are learned.

Native French Latin

to ask to question to interrogate

belly stomach abdomen

empty devoid of vacuous

to end to finish to complete

The most active during the last one hundred years was the process of borrowing from American English.

British American

trunk call long distance call

lorry truck

trick gimmick

wireless radio

lift elevator

English Scottish

girl lassie

charm glamour

liquor whiskey


Grass, pot, shit, cannabis, a monkey are synonyms of dope.

4. New words form synonyms to the existing ones by way of affixation or loss of affixes or conversion, compounding and shortening. Content and contents, amongst and among, although and though, effectivity and effectiveness, laugh and laughter.

5. Appearance of phrasal verbs which is a very strong process in modern English, and they are functioning alongside with the existing verbs: to choose and to pick out, to abandon and to give up, to return to come back, to return and give back, to postpone and to put off.

6. Development of phraseology.

7. Euphemisation of speech, e.g. to die and to be no more, to be gone, to pass away, to breath one's last, to join the silent majority, to go the way of all flesh, to go west.


Antonyms are defined as two or rarely more words that belong to the same language, same part of speech, same semantic field, identical in style, often associated and used together in one and the same context, but reflecting denotative meanings which render contradictory or contrary notions.

There are absolute antonyms which have different roots like right and wrong, and derivational antonyms with negative affixes, like happy and unhappy, tasty and tasteless, etc.

As a rule a pair of derivational antonyms forms a binary opposition which permits no elements in between. On the other hand absolute antonyms form two polar members of a gradual opposition with some intermediary elements between them, e.g. beautiful, good-looking, plain, ugly.

Besides there are so-called complementary (дополняющие) antonyms which neither have intermediary elements, e.g. male and female, war and peace, wealth and poverty.

Almost every word of the language has one or several synonyms, but few have antonyms. Antonymy is especially evident with the qualitative adjectives like new and old, good and bad, pleasant and unpleasant, etc. Antonymy is also manifested in the words derived from the qualitative adjectives, e.g. gladly and sadly, gladness and sadness, etc.

Unlike synonyms antonyms mostly form pairs, but not groups, e.g. absent - present, above - below, etc. Still there are cases when the language may offer three or more words showing antonymical relations to each other, but still having a strong tendency of falling into the same binary oppositions. E.g. hot, warm - cool, cold.

Polysemantic words may find antonyms only in some of their meanings and no antonyms in the others. E.g. a short story - a long story, a short man - a tall man, to be short with sb - to be polite/civil with sb.

Though antonyms are traditionally know as the words of opposite meanings, their semantic structures show many common features. E.g. ashamed of and proud of and antonyms, but they both show feelings. Although from this point of view linguistics note a special subclass within the class of antonyms: conversives. Pairs of conversives denote one and the same situation or action which is looked upon from two different points of view and with a reverse order of participants and their roles. For example to give - to take / to receive, to purchase - to sell, father - child.

It should also be noted that conversives relations are quite possible within the same structure of one word. Mary married John and John married Mary.

The practical value of antonyms is in teaching the language and compiling learner's dictionaries, especially thesauruses.

Vocabulary as an adaptive system

"To adapt" means here to undergo constant modifications in both structure and function with the aim of being fit for any new use, new environment or new non-standard communicative situation. Being adaptive or adaptable the vocabulary of any living language changes constantly, adjusting itself to the ever-changing circumstances and requirements of human communication, its cultural, scientific, technical and other needs.

According to Ferdinand de Saussure synchronic linguistics deals with systems, while diachronic linguistics is concentrated upon single elements of language. Hence the language system should be studied as something fixed and unchangeable which is hard to agree with. The adaptive approach to the language system studies overcomes this contradiction.

Though the majority of linguists today agree that the vocabulary is a system and should be studied as such, the present state of knowledge only allows to deal with it as if it were a number of relatively autonomous systems, interrelated among themselves. Therefore the vocabulary of a living language can be defined as a system of systems that is subdivided into a number of smaller groups which are in fact groupings of words. Each group is then studied for different purposes.

The adaptive character of the vocabulary may be studied beginning with its result that is by studying the newest words constantly appearing in the language.


New words and expressions are created to denote some objects and phenomena coming into the life of the speaking community. Neologisms may also be new words used to denote the old objects. There are three types of neologisms pointed out by linguists:

a. words and phrases new in every aspect;

b. new meanings for the old word forms;

c. words, lately borrowed from other languages or new borrowings.

The principle criterion for defining whether a word is a neologism is the duration of the period it has been functioning in the language. If this time becomes relatively long, the word can no more be called a neologism.

Neologisms may not or rather should not be words absolutely new in any part of their structure, as many of them are coined from the old well-known morphemes. This is the reason that they are self-understandable and start functioning within the language without any additional adaptive period. E.g. aerobic, feedback, camcoder, black hole (new meaning for a combination of old words), raider. As we see, shortening, composition, conversion and their various combinations are actively used for making new words.

Sometimes neologisms are created by men of letters and then become commonly used. E.g. the word admass denoting mass advertising in its harmful effect on the human society was first used J.B. Presley. As a rule at the beginning of the new word's functioning the unit is quite understandable and doesn't need any special explanation. This happens due to the comprehensible character and/or it is constructed on the basis of the well-known word-building models. For example, the word teach-in which meant teaching in protest entailed in American English a number of other words which followed the same pattern, e.g. laugh-in (laughing in protest), love-in (show affection in public), bed-in (staying in bed in protest), pray-in (praying in segregated churches).

There's a word alcoholic which was used as a basis for coining other units like workaholic, bookaholic, etc., all of them being self-explanatory. Another example is a compound washateria, which is a laundry plus cafeteria.

At this or that period of time some morphemes become especially attractive in the society and are actively used for the creation of new words. Such was the element anti- for the English language of the 1960s. E.g. antinovel, antipollution program, antiflash glasses, etc. Nowadays such morphemes are super-, hyper-, mega-.

Neologisms appear in every language sphere irrespective of the style and field of their usage, thus with the development of science and technology a lot of new often vague terminology appear in the language.

Loss of words

Taking into account the adaptive nature of the vocabulary we should realize that the appearance of the new words in the vocabulary should be contrasted by a reverse process, which is a regular loss of some part of the same vocabulary. The words which are lost from use are named obsolete words, and these fall into two basic groups:

1) archaisms,

2) historisms.

Archaisms - words once common, but now replaced by their newer synonyms (aught - anything, betwixt - between, billow - a wave, sep - blood, to chide - to scold, mourn - morning, save - except, thee - you). Archaisms more often than not exist alongside with the appropriate new words, but strongly differ from the latter in their stylistic coloring. With regard to this difference they are vastly used in poetic speech and associated with it.

When the causes of the word's disappearance from the language are evidently extralinguistic, which means that when the object named is no longer used in practical life, then the word becomes a historism. There are a lot of such historisms among the names of social relations, objects of material culture, social institutions of the past, names of the ancient transport means, clothing, weapons, musical instruments, etc. The examples of old weapons are a battering ram (таран для пробивания стен), a blunder-buss, a breast-plate, a crossbow. Many historisms remain in the present-day vocabulary, but are used in some figurative meanings. E.g. an arrow, a shield, a sword, a visor.

Besides we should differentiate the level of the obsolete character of this or that archaism, and from this standpoint there are words which are completely obsolete and those are named obsolescent.

Division of the vocabulary into groupings

There are different approaches to the question of the division of the vocabulary into groupings. So words can be divided according to the morphemes they consist of, according to the number of those morphemes, and their bounded or unbounded character, and this will be the morphemic type of grouping. Another type is word families, but in this case the groups are small and their number is enormous because it is equal to the number of the basic root morphemes. An example of such a word family is dog - doggish - doglike - doggy - to dog - dogged - doggedly - doggedness - dog-wolf - dog-days - dogcart - dog-biscuit, etc. The principle of the word family may serve as the basis for compiling some dictionaries, although it's no longer used this way nowadays.

We can also classify words into notional and form lexemes, the latter being also called empty words or auxiliaries, since they can hardly express independent notions, but only grammatical relationships between notional words. This feature, however, should not completely deprive them of any possible lexical meaning.

The most dominating subdivision is that into parts of speech, which of course pertains to grammar. The further and more subtle subdivision is into lexico-grammatical groups, which should not be confused with the parts of speech. By a lexico-grammatical group we understand a class of words which all have a common lexico-grammatical meaning, one and the same paradigm, the same substituting elements and possibly a characteristic set of affixes. As a rule several lexico-grammatical groups make one part of speech. As an example we may take English nouns, which are typically subdivided into the following groupings:

1) personal names,

2) animal names,

3) collective names for people,

4) collective names for animals,

5) abstract nouns,

6) material nouns,

7) object nouns,

8) proper names for people,

9) toponymic proper names.

This list is not and should not be perceived as once and forever finished.

Thematic groups

As we see, the lexico-grammatical groupings are rather numerous and large by the number of the included members. That is why they had to be further subdivided into thematic subgroups, such as

- terms of kinship,

- names for the parts of the human body,

- color terms, military terms,

and many others.

The basis for such subdivision is not only linguistic but also extralinguistic. First and foremost because the things named are closely connected with each other in reality. To better understand the general idea of thematic groups we should take one such example which may be adjectives. On the first stage all the adjectives are divided according to the lexico-grammatical principle into qualitative and relative adjectives. The qualitative adjectives can be further split into those characterizing size, shape, color, speed, other physical qualities, mental qualities for persons, etc. Out of all these formations we may only choose the group of color terms. The basic or starting color name system comprises only four words, which are the main colors defined by physics and covering the spectrum: red, green, blue, yellow. These colors serve as dominants for other synonymic groups, e.g. red is a dominant for several subsystems, which can be subdivided into a number of degrees based on the criterion of their closeness to the dominant. First-degree color names are scarlet, orange, crimson, rose; second-degree names are wine-red, cherry, coral, copper-red, etc., where a definite color is color is compared to a definite object.

Words belonging to different subsystems also show difference in a number of features, which are:

1) frequency of their use in speech,

2) motivation,

3) type of the word structure, which may be simple or compound,

4) stylistic coloring,

5) valency or the combining power.

The relations between the units of different levels are those of hypernymic character. The units of the upper level are considered hypernyms, while those of the lower levels are hyponyms. Thus the word scarlet is a hyponym to the word red which is its hypernym.

… …in the process of making a thematic subdivision of another level. In this latter case we shall have new groups which will be called ideographical lexical groups. A group of this kind may embrace nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs, which are all notional words within the grammatical system of the language. E.g. an ideographic group may include words like light (n), bright (adj), shine (v) only because all the three words are combined by the general notion of light. At this point we come close to the well-known and much-discussed theory of semantic fields. Jost Trier, a German linguist of the 20th century, wrote: "Fields are linguistic realities existing between single words and the total vocabulary. They are parts of a larger hole and resemble words in the fact that they combine into some higher units. They also resemble the vocabulary in that they resolve themselves into smaller units."

One semantic field may include such words as dog, bark and kennel; blind and see; right and left, etc.

From out of all previously named semantic groups the last one that is the semantic field is most commonly used in modern linguistics.

Terminological systems

The borders of the semantic fields as those of so many other groups of words are rather vague. The easiest problem is to define the nucleus of the semantic field, while the definition of such field's periphery is a much harder task. However, there are special or rather specialized semantic fields which can be defined most sharply and with the greatest exactness possible. Such fields are found in terminological systems.

A term is a word or a word group naming a notion, characteristic of some special field of knowledge, technology, industry, culture, etc.

Terminology is making today a substantial part of any national vocabulary. Terminology is a group of words developing most intensely, because this class produces the greatest number of new formations.

A term is in many respects a non-typical kind of word, because an ideal term should be monosemantic while almost every word of the language is polysemantic. A term must not depend in its meaning on the context and should be used in complete isolation. Polysemy of terms may be tolerated in one case only if the same word being the term has different meanings in different fields of knowledge. Thus the term "alphabet" has different meanings in linguistics and mathematics (or the world "language" in linguistics and computer sciences).

Another problem is the terminological use and application in speech of the words of everyday communication. Thus the word "word" can be used both as a common nomination and as a term of linguistics.

The term being used in its proper sphere does not permit any emotional or evaluative elements in its meaning. However, if taken out from its proper sphere, the term can obtain figurative and sometimes even emotionally colored meanings.

On the other hand one should bear in mind that in such cases terms stop being used as the units of terminological systems. E.g. the word "atomic", even if used in isolation, is nothing else but a physical term. But within a metaphoric formula Atomic Age it becomes emotionally colored so that if within this formula the word "atomic" is perceived literally, it will have no meaning at all.

Terminology, like any other lexical grouping, forms a lexico-semantic system with its own regularities, norms and laws, which makes a deep study of terminological system quite possible. So terms may be systematized and standardized, their meanings may be checked and accurately defined.

Another problem with terms is the way they come to being or the origin of such words. Many terms are based on the lexical system of the dead classical languages, such as Old Greek, Latin, etc. The reason for such sources of terminology lies in the wish to attach an unchanging meaning to one word. As the dead languages are no longer developing, the meanings of their words (or rather roots and non-root morphemes) also stay unchanged. A strong tendency in modern term formation processes is not to use those words which once existed, but their elements to construct new terms. That's why although it's quite clear that this or that term is for example of an Old Greek origin, the word may have never existed in the language where from it's taken.

The well-known paradox of the 20th century is that linguists paid much more attention to the branch of knowledge from the viewpoint of their terminology, but ignored linguistics. The work on systematization of linguistic terminology began only in the second half of the 20th century.

The ways terms are coined are generally the same as those of formation of other words: clipping, blending, abbreviation, combination of stems, borrowing. Borrowing is made not only from dead languages, but living ones too. Terminology is also replenished through the formation of set expressions. Some definite terms may be quite accurately defined by the time of their appearance in different spheres of knowledge. E.g. "stratosphere", "gene" (1909), "vitamin" (1920), "behaviorism" (1914), "transistor" (1952), "bionics" (1960), "beam weapon" (1977), etc. Some terms retain the names of their inventors. E.g. "anode" and "cathode" were introduced my Michael Faraday, "vitamin" by Dr. Funk.

At the same time we should realize that terminology only serves the needs of professional communication. It takes a most active part in the formation of the professional discourse. But it does not make the whole discourse.

The usual communication practice should inevitably include many other groups of words such as the lexicon of common usage, non-terminological units, auxiliary elements, etc., which may be used in a special or specialized manner, but which have their meanings and communicative functions the same as in any other practical discourse, everyday colloquial speech included here. Finally, the practical interest in terminology is closely linked with the problem of compiling specialized dictionaries.

Opposition of emotionally colored and emotionally neutral vocabularies

The basic function of any verbal statement is to convey information, although the ideas conveyed may be of principally different nature. Thus this information may constitute or include the reflection of the speaker's attitude to the subject of speech as well as definite data about his relations with the listener, his emotional reaction to the situation of speech

One should distinguish between emotional and emotive speech. Emotion is the category of psychology, while emotiveness is that of linguistics. Among the foreign linguists of the 20th century concerned with emotiveness we should name Anna Vezhbitska, while in the Russian linguistics it was Victor Ivanovich Shakhovsky.

Emotive speech is any utterance which contains and expresses emotion. The quality of emotions can be formed at any language level with the help of intonation, stress and special pronunciation that is phonetically; with the help of specific syntactical construction that is in syntax; with the help of the use of special or specialized words that is through lexicon.

From out of all the emotionally colored words the best studied type are interjections. It should be noted that in fact any word of the language may be used as an interjection, because in such special cases the lexeme loses its primary meaning and is used figuratively.

Emotions may also be shown at the morphological level by diminutive or derogative suffixes: dad - daddy, dear - deary, old - oldie. There are also special words and phrases named speech intensifiers, like ever, even, so, such, at all, in the world, etc. Pointed out may also be evaluative words, showing positive or negative evaluation of the subject of utterance.

One of the most effective ways to express evaluation is the stylistic device of irony when words and expressions are used in their opposite meanings. E.g.: Everybody was too bloody friendly at the party. Some of such words and expressions are vulgar and banned, and some belong to taboo.

Non-semantic or formal groupings of words

1) Alphabetical organization of written words.

2) Rhyming organization of words (the words are grouped according to the similarity of their final elements, i.e. it's a reverse alphabetical order).

3) Groupings according to the number of sounds or letters within one word.

4) Groupings according to the frequency of use of the words.

The origin of the modern English vocabulary. Native words versus loan words

The whole stock of the English words can be divided from the viewpoint of their origin into two principal sets:

1) the native lexicon,

2) the borrowed lexicon.

A native word is a unit belonging to the original English stock as it is known from the earliest manuscripts of the Old English period.

A loan word or a borrowing is a unit taken from another language and in the majority of cases modified either in its phonemic shape or spelling or its grammar paradigm and/or meaning in accordance with the standards of the recipient language.

The native vocabulary is further subdivided by diachronic linguists into the words of Indo-European stock and those of common Germanic origin. The words of Indo-European origin make the oldest lexical layer of English. They have cognates in different Indo-European languages and they readily fall into semantic groups. These are the words which have been functioning in the language for the longest period of time and the best possible example here are the terms of kinship like father, mother, son, daughter, brother, etc. But these may also be words naming natural phenomena like sun, moon, star, wind, water, wood, hill, stone, tree, etc. Names of animals and birds like bull, cat, crow, goose, wolf, etc. Parts of human body like arm, ear, eye, foot, heart. Also some of the most frequent words like bear, come, sit, stand, etc. Adjectives denoting physical properties, like hard, quick, slow, red, white. And most numerals.

However, a much bigger part of the native vocabulary layer is formed by the words of the common Germanic stock which find parallels in German, Norwegian, Dutch, Icelandic and others, but do not find such parallels in such Indo-European languages as French or Russian. Such are nouns as summer, winter, rain, ice, ground, bridge, house, shoe, life, rest, etc. Verbs like burn, drive, learn, make, see, send, etc. Adjectives like broad, dead, deaf, deep and others.

Today this layer constitutes not less than 80% of the 500 most frequently used English words. These words can be met in any style of speech and are characterized by a wide range of their lexical and grammatical value. They actively develop polysemy, they are often monosyllabic, they show high word-building abilities and they enter a large number of set expressions.


The significance of the borrowed words in any national vocabulary much depends on the historical development of the language that is on the direct linguistic contacts as well as political, economic, cultural and all other relations between nations. The English history contains innumerable occasions for all types of such contacts. It's know that up to 70% of the modern English vocabulary consists of loan words and only 30% are the native lexicon. However, this fact is not due to some special tolerance of the foreign elements in English, but rather to the specific conditions and peculiarities of the English language development. The Roman invasion, the introduction of Christianity, the Danish and Norman conquests, as well other specific features marking the long development of British colonialism, caused important changes in the modern English vocabulary.

From the very beginning we should distinguish between the two different basic terms: the source of borrowing, the origin of borrowing.

The source of borrowing is the language from which the loan word has been directly taken.

The origin of borrowing is the language to which the word may be traced.

For example the English word paper came from papier, so that the French language is the source of the borrowing. But papier in its turn came from papyrus which is a Latin word and papyros which is Old Greek. So old Greek is the language of origin of this word.

Apart from the loan words proper we should distinguish between translations or calks and semantic loans. Loan translations are words and expressions "constructed" from the native material, but staying in accordance with the patterns of another language. Such loans are coined by way of literal morpheme-to-morpheme or word-to-word translation. E.g. the word chain-smoker is a calk from the German Kettenraucher; the expression it goes without saying comes from French cela va sans dire; the word pioneer meant in English "explorer" and the one among the first in some new activity or field, however under the influence of the Russian word пионер it also began to denote a member of a young politicians organization in the USSR.

Foreign borrowings in the English language, especially those, which are considered old, penetrate the English vocabulary so deeply that it may become difficult to separate them from native words. This is due to the high degree of assimilation of such words to the English language system. Some evident examples here are words like cheese, street, wall, wine, which all belong to the earliest layer of Latin borrowings. However, many loan words, in spite of all the changes they have undergone, retain some peculiarities in their morphology, spelling, pronunciation, etc.

E.g. the initial position of sounds [v], [dз], [з] shows that the word is borrowed, like vacuum (Latin), valley (French), vanilla (Spanish), gem (Latin), jewel (Old French), genre (French), gendarme (French). Initial letter j, x, z, combinations of ph, kh, eau in the root also denote borrowings. Examples are numerous: philosophy (Greek), khaki (Indian), beau (French). The combination of ch if read as [ш] certainly denotes French origin. The same ch red as [k] denotes Greek origin.

Monosyllabic character of native words and polysyllabic of borrowings should also be noted. Thus company, condition, continue, government, important are among the most frequently used borrowed words.

If a stress in an English word falls on the last syllable it for sure denotes are borrowing: hotel, magazine, event, cigarette (although can be pronounced with first syllable stressed), cigar, etc. However, the stress may be shifted and adapted to the English phonetic system even in the most evident borrowings like cafй.

Assimilation of loan words. The degree of assimilation

The problem of assimilation of borrowings is closely connected with the question of interaction of the borrowed units with the language system as a whole. The phenomenon of assimilation can be defined as partial or total conformation to the phonetic, syntactic, graphical and/or morphological standards of the receiving language as well as to its semantic system.

There also is a notion of the assimilation degree which much depends on the period of use of the word in the receiving language. Oral borrowings are naturally assimilated more rapidly and completely than bookish and written ones. There are 4 main groups into which all loan words can be classified from the viewpoint of their assimilation degree:

1) completely assimilated loans;

2) partially assimilated loans;

3) unassimilated loan words (barbarisms);

4) foreign insertions.

The words of the first group are the oldest borrowings, coming from Latin (cheese, street), Scandinavian (nouns husband, fellow, gate, route, wing, verbs call, die, take, adjectives happy, ill, low), French (table, chair, face, finish, matter) etc. This first group is much greater than the second one. Many of these words show little difference from the native stock (animal, article). They typically follow all morphological, phonetic and autographic standards of English. They usually occur as dominants in synonymic groups, they actively participate in word formation processes.

Apart from words assimilated may also be suffixes. E.g. -ese and -fier were borrowed from French, but turned into -ess and -fy. They are now easily combined with native roots like in goddess.

On the other hand, borrowed roots or stems are freely combined with native affixes. E.g. the root pain came from French peine, which came from Latin poena, which in its term came from Greek poine, which in Greek meant "penalty". But in modern English we have words which resulted from the combination of this root with various suffixes, e.g. painful, painless, pained, etc. Such words may be absolutely undistinguishable phonetically, thus sport comes from French desporte meaning "to amuse oneself", while start is native, showing connections with the Middle English word sterten.

The group of partially assimilated loans (group 2) falls into:

a. The words unassimilated semantically (because they denote objects peculiar to the country of the origin), like clothing (sombrero, sari), titles and professions (shah, sheikh, torero), food and drinks (sherbet, pilaw (плов)), currencies (rupee, zlote, rouble (Br.E)/ ruble (Am.E)).

b. The words unassimilated grammatically (because they are exceptions to English grammar system): phenomenon - phenomena, crisis - crises, etc. Some of such words already have two forms (index - indices/indexes).

c. The words not completely assimilated phonetically, having stress on their final syllable (cartoon, police). Also the words having specific sounds, like genre, regime, measure, prestige, or sound combinations like in memoir.

d. The words not completely assimilated graphically: ballet, debris, machine, clichй, etc.

Sometimes several of these peculiarities are combined in a single unit: Penelope, Hermione, Aphrodite.

Barbarisms are words of other languages not assimilated in any way, but having their equivalents among native words, e.g. ciao.

Foreign insertions are words and expressions unassimilated in principle. They always retain and show their foreign origin. E.g. musical term used in jazz scores ad libitum (Latin: "at pleasure").

Etymological doublets

These are two or more words of the same language (English in our case), which were derived by different roots from a single basic word. E.g. verbs drag and draw are derived from a single Old English root dragan in the same meaning. There are a number of pairs in Modern English which show regular variations of the sh-sc/sk letter combination. E.g.

Old English Scandinavian

shirt skirt

shriek screech

share scar

shabby scabby

One interesting example here is a pair of words stationary and stationery. This likeness in both sound and partially spelling is due to the fact that in Medieval England most booksellers were traveling salesmen, while the permanent bookstores were called stations. There salesmen were stationers, and what they sold was stationery, similarly to grocery, bakery, etc.

International words

This is rather a large group of words that all show relative likeness and identical origin, but occur in several languages if not in the majority of modern European languages. Such occurrence is a result of simultaneous rarely successive borrowing from one and the same source language, typically this is a classical dead language like Old Greek and especially Latin.

The intonational vocabulary shows rapid growth in the number of units common to various language which is the result of expanding global contacts. Internationalisms play the most important part in terminological systems that is vocabularies of science, industry, art, technology, sports, etc. As an example the world of music is predominantly served by Italian words, e.g. allegro, andante, aria, arioso, opera, piano, violoncello, etc. Russian internationalisms may also be singled out, and these are mammoth, balalaika, Perestroika, vlast, vodka, Bolshevik.

Many roots, being intonational by nature, have altered their meanings as they penetrated other languages. In Russian linguistics this phenomenon is known as ложные друзья переводчика. These words present definite difficulties for English language learners and translators. Examples here are meter (счетчик; метр), command, costume, medicine, machine, party, record, passport, family.

Exotisms (exotic borrowed words): anaconda, bungalow, sari, chastushka.

Regional varieties of the English vocabulary. Standard English and dialects

The modern English language is represented in quite a number of its varieties but still has a standard manifestation named literary English, or King's English, or Queen's English. This is the official language used in Great Britain, taught at British schools and universities, employed by mass media and spoken by educated people throughout the whole world. This is one of the forms of English which is current and substantially uniform, recognized and acceptable wherever English is spoken or understood.

Alongside with King's English there exist local dialects which are varieties of English, peculiar to some districts, but having no normalized literary form. Dialects should be distinguished from variants, because the latter, although spoken elsewhere, away from the British Isles, possess their own literary forms.

There are 2 principal variants on the territory of Great Britain: Scottish (Scotts) English and Irish English. There are also 5 main groups of dialects: Northern, Midland, Eastern, Western and Southern. Each dialectal group contains up to 10 dialects and subdialects.

Among the best known Southern dialects is cockney which is spoken in London. Cockney was given special attention by such writers as Charles Dickens, Bernard Shaw and others. Among its features named can be:

- replacement of [и] and [р] by [f] and [v] respectively,

- interchange of aspirated and non-aspirated initial vowels (i.e. art is [ha:t], and heart is [a:t]),

- its pronunciation of some silent consonants (i.e. who is [who:]),

- substitution of the diphthong [ai] for the standard [ei] (i.e. day is [dai] and face is [fais]),

- there are also some specific cockney set expressions, i.e. to be up at the pole (to be drunk),

- well-known is cockney rhyming slang, i.e. instead of boots they say daisy roots, instead of wife - trouble and strife.

These days dialects are predominantly preserved in rural communities and in the speech of the elderly people. Dialects undergo rapid changes under the pressure of standard English distributed by schools, universities and mass media. Dialects are preserved by specialized dictionaries. Many dialectal words once belonged to standard English, but have now become obsolete. Among these are to end (to envy, see Old English andian), a barge (a pig, see Old English berg), etc. The best known dialectal dictionary is Joseph Rights English Dialect Dictionary.

Scotts may well be found in literature, e.g. Robert Burns, and in numerous dictionaries. For example wha is "who", vera is "very", smick means "to smoke", Mahone means "devil", etc.

The Irish variant shows some syntactical features like structures, e.g. it was yourself started it, or the way typically used for "when". There are specific Irish names or surnames, like O'name, like O'Connery which means "belonging to a kin of" (o' stands for "of"), Mc means "the son of", Sean is variant of John, etc.

Sometimes dialectal words enter original variant, like shamrock, whiskey (in Irish it's any strong alcohol, thus it's liquor in standard English), bonny, glamour, lassy, slogan, tartan.

American English

This is not a dialect, although it is an example of a regional variety of English. American English has its own standard called Standard American or American National Standard (ANS). On the other hand it cannot be given a status of a separate language, since it doesn't have its own grammar, neither vocabulary. From the latter viewpoint an Americanism is a word or expression peculiar for the English language as it is spoken in the USA.

biscuit - cookie

to think - to guess

post - mail

shop - store

(newspaper) article - story

the line's engaged - the line's busy

American English also differs in pronunciation and some grammar features too, but mainly in the vocabulary. It should be noted that American English is the language based on the English language as it was brought to the American continent by the first colonists back in 1607, an those people were contemporaries of Shakespeare, Spencer, Milton. So the words that have died out on the British Isles or changed their meaning have survived in the USA. E.g. I guess can be found in Chaucer's work in the meaning "I think". For more than three centuries American English has been developing more or less independently of British English. Early Americans had to coin words for the unfamiliar flora and fauna phenomena, e.g. corn, raccoon, opossum, hickory. Indian and Spanish lexical elements can be found in canoe, moccasin, squab, sombrero, mustang, etc. Translation loans or calques are pipe of peace, paleface, and Indian toponyms are Ohio, Michigan, Utah, etc.

The back (reverse) penetration from American to British English should also be noted. This happens in pronunciation, e.g. it may be [ж] instead of [a:], [e] for [ei], [u] for [ju], [sk] instead of [?].

British American

through thru

cosy cozy

humour humor

colour color

grey gray

although although

night nite

Sometimes both words of two variants are used in the USA and the UK, e.g. autumn and fall.

A certain classification of differences may look as follows:

1) Americanisms having no equivalents in British English (e.g. to drive in);

2) different words for the same denotation (movies - pictures (or slangish flicks/flix);

3) different semantic structures (pavement in the USA is for cars, not pedestrians);

4) different word distribution (to ride in horseback (Br) - to ride a horseback (Am), to ride in a bus (Br) - to ride a bus (Am));

5) different emotional or stylistic colouring (queer, nasty);

6) different frequency of usage (timetable and schedule).

Besides there are some characteristic word formation elements in the USA distinguishing the American variant from the British one. Thus popular there are suffixes like -ster (hipster), -don, -sie, -roo.

Canadian, Australian, Indian and other variants

All the basic features traced in American English as well as the principle tendencies can also be seen in other geographical variants of English. Typical for Canadian is shack for "hot", for Australian - boomerang, kangaroo, bush (fur "forest"), Indian bungalow, sari, jungle.


…so it has a theoretical and practical value being aimed at compiling dictionaries. Lexicography is typically referred to applied linguistics. because its product (the dictionary) serves the aims of better communication and translation. Both lexicography and lexicology have one common object of studies which is the vocabulary of the given language or languages. The general aim of lexicography is semantic and functional description of words. The formal peculiarities of the described lexical units are also relevant here. Hence each dictionary is an attempt of a more or less complete description of the given type of units. At the same time dictionaries are unable to achieve a truly systematic description of words which is the aim of lexicology.

Neither of these two branches of linguistics could develop without the other one. This lexicography is based on the principles of systematization and classification of words, produced by lexicology, and lexicology often uses as the basic empiric material of its studies the results of lexicographic systematizations.

The basic product of lexicology is the dictionary, which can be defined as a book or a software product listing words, usually together with their meanings and various data, regarding their grammar functions, origin, combining abilities, participation in the formation of idioms, etc., but some dictionaries concentrate their attention upon only one of these aspects, the result being pronunciation, etymological, explanatory and other dictionaries.

Another view upon the dictionaries may be that from the position of the number of languages, involved in them. And here we may have:

1) unilingual or explanatory dictionaries,

2) bilingual or translation dictionaries,

3) multilingual or polyglot dictionaries.

Both unilingual and bilingual dictionaries may be general and special. The former tend to represent the vocabulary as a whole, and the degree of their completeness only depends on the volume of the book itself.

Special or specialized dictionaries may be further subdivided according to the sphere of human activity they describe. So they may be technical, economic, medical, agricultural, sport and other dictionaries.

While the technical ones, for example, may be subdivided into aviation, computer, transport, machinery and other dictionaries.

According to the types of units we may have dictionaries of idioms, slang, dialectal dictionaries, etc. According to the relations existing between the units there are dictionaries of synonyms, antonyms and homonyms.

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